It’s fair to say that online reviews and online review platforms have changed the industry. Before the birth of third-party review sites, one person’s negative experience with your company would only have so much of an impact. Perhaps they’d tell their friends or neighbors, but a company would only lose a few prospective customers.

In today’s world, with the advent of online reviews, one customer’s negative experience has a much wider impact. The audience for a single bad review is now almost limitless. Your business could easily lose hundreds of potential customers, and thousands of dollars in sales opportunity, over a single bad review.

Knowing how to harness and use bad reviews is an essential skill for all marketing and sales professionals. But before delving into those topics, its useful to understand how and when customers are using online reviews. Understanding those basic things will make it much easier to use online reviews to your advantage later on.

Let’s take a look and how, when and why customers use online reviews.


Online reviews can be accessed a handful of different ways. Most companies will have product and service reviews in various locations on their website. Another way customers will seek out reviews, which is becoming increasingly popular, is through a third-party website like ConsumerAffairs. Additionally, a simple Google search of your product or brand can bring up dozens of blog posts and niche websites that provide varying levels of feedback.

Regardless of how customers are accessing these online reviews, it’s essential to know that they are. According to The eMarketer E-commerce Insights Report, approximately forty-one percent of respondents say that they always reference online reviews during the shopping process.


If forty-one percent of consumers are accessing online reviews during the shopping process, the question becomes when Almost all consumers who utilize online reviews access them early in the buying process. They’re checking out other consumers’ experiences with your product or service before they’ve made up their minds about purchasing.

Most markets are heavily saturated. For example, if a consumer is looking for a new vacuum, they have hundreds of options. Filtering through them can feel overwhelming. Looking through customer reviews early in the buying process can help weed out the vacuums that don’t perform like promised, break easily, or just overall aren’t worth the money. Meanwhile, finding a vacuum that’s reviewed positively by consumers with a similar lifestyle and similar needs can convince a customer that this particular vacuum is worth the money and would make a good addition to their lives.

Seventy-two percent of consumers will take action only after reading a positive review.


This leads us to why customers are so dependent on online reviews. It all boils down to a single word: uncertainty.

Most customers have limited buying power. Realistic budgets don’t have room for an individual to buy a half-dozen vacuums in order to find the one they love. They only have the means to buy one, so naturally, they want to ensure it’s one that will work well and will last a long time.

However, nearly every vacuum on the market will claim to be the most powerful, deepest cleaning and longest lasting. The reality is that they can’t all be number one. This leads to a lot of uncertainty for consumers. How do they know which vacuum will actually live up to the claims it makes?

Looking through reviews of real-life customers is perhaps the easiest way to settle that uncertainty. Eighty-eight percent of consumers report that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. And once something has been recommended to them, whether in person or through an online review, seventy-two percent of consumers will move forward with a purchase, resulting in a new customer and more sales dollars for your business.